This show is terrible.
By any measure, Brain Powerd should be the sort of show I sneer at. Everything about it shrieks loudly of its desire for depth and to be taken seriously, from the inane introspection the characters frequently fall into, to the musical score, to the mechs themselves, ungainly-looking craft that are heavily implied to possess some level of intelligence of their own and which are piloted by one’s own brain. As for what any of what is going on actually means, its more or less impossible to suss out between all the jargon and the show’s refusal to explain even the slightest of things lest it become less ~mysterious~. This is one of those shows that doesn’t really know how to walk the fine line between mysterious and outright opacity. After
five nine episodes my knowledge of what is going on in the larger picture is, more or less, “Well, there’s this organization that wants to bring a ship called ‘Orphan’ into the world that will kill off everyone else, then start it all from scratch on another planet. And there’s another organization that wants to stop them. And, uh, there’s two different types of mechs, but I don’t know what the difference between the two is, technically speaking, although everyone keeps saying the Brain Powerds are nicer than the Gran Chers.” You know how people complain about info-dumps? This show could really use one.
Despite the elements that should be infuriating, I somehow can’t help but find the mess endearing. You can nearly feel the production crew straining to make this show into something profound… and then it falls flat on its face. Is this what they call “moe”?
Put another way, I’ve been snorting my way through each episode and each stab at profundity that goes wildly off the mark. I’ve also begun watching it dubbed (blasphemous, surely!); I had wanted to paint my nails, which meant I had to keep looking away from the screen, so I shrugged and set it to the dub. The dub hasn’t aged well, to put it kindly; it’s a Bandai Entertainment dub from 2000. I’m not sure it’d sit easily with dub-watchers of today, to be honest, as my, admittedly limited, contact with dubs over the past five years certainly seems to indicate that North American English-language dubs these days tend to be much more professional affairs.*Of course, this means I thought it was perfect for the material, and thus I am watching it all dubbed.
This is the latest show I’ve watched in the past few months where people told me I shouldn’t watch it, yet I’ve been pleased with my decision to. Mind you, the naysayers seem to be completely right – this show is pretty terrible. Of the stuff I’ve watched recently that I’ve enjoyed the most (Gundam Wing, Macross 7… although the Dynamite OAV was complete and utter shit), I can at least say they weren’t fundamentally terrible affairs. Brain Powerd doesn’t really do a single thing, right, though… well, actually, the OP and ED music are pretty solid, if a touch overblown (which, really, can also be said for the soundtrack overall, although background music serves primarily to highlight how lacking in substance the show actually is). The OP also has more nipples all on its own than show up in some entire shows, so, uh, good job on that, I guess.
By the way, it bears mentioning that Tomino (THAT Tomino) appears to have intended this as his Neon Genesis Evangelion, as he stated numerous times that he’d thought of it before Evangelion ever appeared, so, nooo, he wasn’t copying! Quite frankly, through roughly a third of the show you’d never think that this was supposed to be his answer to that show. I’m no Evangelion fan, but from my exposure to that particular property (I’ve only seen five episodes of the TV series, but I’ve read nine volumes of the manga, and I’ve seen the first of the Rebuild movies) I feel comfortable saying that at least what happens in the show follows a sensical progression and the characters behave like human beings, which is much more than can be said of Brain Powerd. I suppose if I squint and turn my head sideways, I can point to the fact that in both shows the young casts have parental issues up the wazoo, but Brain Powerd more or less has characters turn to the screen and state, “I have mommy/daddy issues!” whereas Evangelion tends to let us figure that out by observing, for example, the interactions between Shinji and Gendo across time (although I find Asuka’s backstory involving her mother pretty damn boring and a serious case of “been there, done that” since “Mom loses it and harms her children.” has been done thousands of times since Medea first popped up in Greek myths roughly 2,700 years ago).
Put bluntly, next to no one in this show behaves in a way that comes close to approximating human behavior. Characters frequently do things that make no sense whatsoever; you can almost see the puppet strings bouncing them along because they’re only doing something because the plot demands that something happen. Characters are often inconsistent in action and sentiment within a single scene. Hime, our heroine, gets pissed because Yuu, the asshole male lead who has defected from Orphan, greets her by kissing her (which itself is never explained, as he shows no interest whatsoever in her in these episodes, nor does anyone else from his organization do this) twice, yet in both those scenes she acts like it never happened within her next two lines after being annoyed. Hime also is nasty to another Orphan defector, Kanon, in multiple scenes where she a mere moments later expresses admiration for her piloting abilities – and several of these times she’s made shitty comments specifically about her piloting ability right before this admiration is expressed! I can accept one or perhaps two characters like this in a show, but when 95% of the cast is like this, its unbelievable. These characters bear such scant resemblance to people that its laugh-worthy.
I almost dropped this show after the confused and confusing first episode, but I’m really glad I didn’t. This show is a riot! Highly recommended, really, although not if you’re expecting a thoughtful, serious mech show. Did I mention the mechs are kind of ugly and stupid, as are the battles? Because you shouldn’t watch it for hot mecha action, either.
* While I watch dubs once in a blue moon, it’d probably be truest to state that I don’t watch dubs. Generally, if there’s a subbed version available of something, I’ll watch that. I swapped back and forth fairly freely while watching G Gundam, as both the original voice-acting and the English dub voice-acting were deliciously cheesy (and thereby well-suited for the material), about two years ago, and I delight in the legion of fairly wretched OAVs that got dubbed by the likes of Central Park Media and Manga Entertainment in the 90’s, but that’s about the limit of my enjoyment of English dubs. These days, when a dub doesn’t automatically mean censorship and poor acting, it’s just a matter of finding it disorienting when anime characters have English coming out of their mouths.